Fictitious Commodities Concept As a Source for Critical Theory of Postindustrial Capitalism

Tuesday, 17 July 2018
Distributed Paper
Dmitry IVANOV, St.Petersburg State University, Russia
The recent expansion of capitalism to new areas of commodification demonstrates correlation between Polanyi’s concept of fictitious commodities and Marx’s concept of capitalism existing as a permanent expansion of commodification. Polanyi considered commodification of elements of production – labor, land (nature), and money. Now commodification is extended to elements of consumption – images and time, which become sources of capitalist accumulation as consumers are constructing their sociocultural identities with use of brands and trends.

The first wave of postindustrialization has resulted in virtualization of society based rather on image-intensive consumption than on knowledge-intensive production. People’s life is immersed in virtual realities of branding, image making, and social media. Commodification of images takes form of branding that generates enormous market value in current economy. Capitalization on images intensifies communications and makes networks dominant structures.

The second wave of postindustrialization is related to formation of a glam-capitalism as producers in hyper-competitive markets saturated by brands have to glamour consumers by aggressively attractive products generating trends. Value creation process now is related more to trends than to brands not only in fashion industry and show business but also in high-tech and financial industries. Trends as short-term but intensive consumer movements represent a form of time commodification. Market value generated by trends is accumulated in flow-structures, which penetrate institutional boundaries and allow glam-capitalists to exploit consumers joining trendy communities.

Commodifying images and time, capitalism of networks and flows alienates identity as fundamental component of social existence. That provokes revolt of authenticity against ephemeral but powerful structures of glam-capitalism. ‘Pirates’, ‘anonymous’ hackers and activists of ‘occupy’ movements violate ‘intellectual’ property rights of glam-capitalism and ‘majority’ will of glam-democracy. Reaction of glam-capitalists to alternative movements is initially oppression and then absorption of them as a source of creativity. That is dialectical negation leading towards an alter-capitalism.